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Vortex Sparc SolAR Review: Powered by the Sun

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In 2007, cellphones were in a weird place. Touch screens were just becoming a thing, but the cool innovation for the year was an influx of these “sidekick” models, where a keyboard would slide out or would open revealing a full keyboard and a second screen. Eclipsed by the full touch screen models that came down the line only a couple of years later, as these became thinner, faster, and more powerful. In 2007, the fabled Micto T-1 was introduced by Aimpoint. The beacon and standard that all red dots would be compared to, even over a decade later. While in the years following 2007, massive strides were taken in technology, it seems like the firearm industry got stuck on this shining example of quality- nothing could ever be as good.

Vortex Sparc Solar left

Left to Right: Aimpoint T-1 Micro, Vortex Sparc SolAR, Vortex Sparc AR.

In 2021 we now know that the T-2 would supersede the T-1 and become a new standard. But did the rest of the industry grow as well? Were there other products that cropped up between now and then that would make an equal mark and influence on the market and industry?

Vortex Sparc Solar down Rail View

This year, Vortex Optics introduced a new lightweight competitor to the ring, the Sparc Solar, a red dot boasting 150,000 hours of battery life, shake awake technology, and a rugged housing. They brought all of this to market for less than half the price of some of the competitors. There’s a small wrinkle in all of this, however; it’s still being compared to the T-1 and the T-2. But that may not be a bad thing. The T-1 and the T-2 are both incredible optics. They are nearly indestructible, have great glass clarity, removable mounts, excellent aftermarket support, and both have 50,000 hour run times. Both are also battle-proven time and time again.

Vortex Sparc Solar T1 Micro Vortex Sparc

Left to Right: Aimpoint T-1 Micro, Vortex Sparc SolAR, Vortex Sparc AR

From this benchmark, does this new red dot hit the mark? After running and testing this optic for a while now, we believe the answer to that is a resounding “hell yes”. The Sparc Solar weighs 5.6 ounces with its included mount with no lens covers affixed, which is in the running with the best red dots on the market. The unit is powered by the industry-standard CR 2032 battery and the damn sun itself. The top of the unit is home to the small solar panel, which, if you weren’t told it was a solar panel, you would never know. It sits recessed slightly to help protect it from impact. Located on the left side and easy to actuate, the brightness buttons remain low profile while giving positive feedback when needed.

Vortex Sparc Solar optic

Speaking of adjustment, the recessed turrets are 1 click to 1 MOA. We’d definitely prefer .5 MOA adjustments for a finer zero, but 1 MOA fits for the applications we're interested in. The 2.0 MOA dot stands sharp and clean with an adjustable brightness that can make the dot easy to find even in Minnesota’s brightest, snowiest days. All in all, great performance at a great price. Some might find it unfair to constantly be compared to an optic twice the price- fair enough we say. Let’s compare it to its older self.

Vortex Sparc Solar side by side

This wasn’t Vortex’s first foray into red dots of this size and format. Best compared to its older counterpart, the Vortex Spac Solar fares well against an older Sparc AR, which we just so happen to have years of experience with and hundreds of hours behind. At first glance, the two optics look pretty similar, save for the Vortex Sparc AR having a solid base and being a tad longer. But as you peel back the layers, these two optics are worlds apart in progress. The Vortex Sparc AR runs off a single AAA battery found in its chunky integral base setting the weight at a hefty 7.4 ounces. In cold climates, the Sparc AR runs for about 10,000 hours from our experience (50,000 advertised), and we found it dead after a year more than once. This predecessor to the Vortex Sparc Solar performs better with lithium batteries. The fixed base prohibits the optic from mounting on lower options, so no AKs, shotguns or other oddball firearms that have a higher receiver. To give credit where credit is due, the name is the “Sparc AR” after all. Compared to the Vortex Sparc Solar, the older optic's dot gets plenty bright and is also 2 MOA, but the difference is the refresh rate. When moving the dot fast or in transitions, the dot flickers obnoxiously.

Vortex Sparc

Looking at the same details on the new Vortex Sparc Solar, the new optic shines even brighter. When it comes to power, time will really tell how the Solar will stack up, yet so far it continues to impress. For the last several months, the optic has been on maximum brightness with no issues thanks to integral automatic shutoff and shake awake technology. The skeletonized base on the Vortex Sparc Solar reduces the weight dramatically, and the optic ships with an ultra-low mount, perfect for anything with a higher receiver. As another bonus, the Sparc AR shares the base footprint with its competitor, the Aimpoint T-1 and T-2, giving it a massive amount of aftermarket support. Lastly, the dot inside the Sparc Solar seems to have a significantly higher refresh rate. When moving the dot quickly or working through target transitions the dot doesn’t flicker or disappear in the slightest.

Vortex Sparc Solar

The Vortex Sparc Solar's emitter takes up considerably less space inside the optic than previous versions.

The Vortex Sparc Solar clearly beats its predecessor in every category. Its small, light, reliable, long lasting, and once mounted and zeroed, you’ll likely not have to interface with the red dot until the battery runs out- in several years' time. That’s what we want from an optic in this category. So then, how does it stack up against the substantially more expensive T-1 and T-2? At this point, time will tell. Will the optic be as reliable? We didn’t freeze or drop the optic out of a airplane, but we put the Sparc Solar through a good rough testing with no failures. The Vortex warranty will cover any issues experienced with the optic, with no questions asked. At this point we see no reason why the Sparc Solar won’t have a long and reliable lifetime. So beyond that, this little red dot, having grown up through the trials of its older counterpart could go toe to toe with any red dot, including the T-1 & T-2. This optic is impressive in every way, and we believe that it just might become the new benchmark for quality and cost in this new 2020s era.

Vortex Sparc Solar CZ Scorpion

Perfect for PCC's, the newer design of the Vortex Sparc Solar grants the user the option to push past the namesake. We included the Sparc Solar in a CZ Scorpion Build. Read More Here.

Vortex Sparc Solar

Weight: 5.9 Ounces
Length: 2.6 Inches
Dot Size: 2 MOA
MSRP: $399

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